Allergies in Children: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

January 2024

man sneezing

Along with the sunshine, outdoor activities, family time, and farewell to short days, come spring allergies (also known as hay fever). And they hit hard for many, especially children. Depending on the specific research study and the location where the study is done, allergic rhinitis has been reported in 5%–50% of the global population and is more common in children.1

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 27.2% of all children in the United States had one or more allergic conditions: 18.9% of children had a seasonal allergy, 10.8% had eczema, and 5.8% had a food allergy.2

Children with allergic conditions may have decreased quality of life, increased healthcare use, and some food allergies can be life-threatening.2

So, what’s a parent to do?  Fortunately, keeping your kids safe this spring allergy season can be easy. Follow the 1, 2, 3 rule:

  1. Identify symptoms
  2. Get tested for allergies
  3. Avoid triggers

What are the symptoms of allergies in a child?

It can be hard to tell what is causing allergy symptoms in a child (or an adult, for that matter), or even identify common allergy symptoms to begin with. Let’s start with the basics, and focus on spring allergies, food allergies, and indoor allergies.

Common spring allergy symptoms include:

  • Stuffed-up nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Red, itchy eyes and/or swollen eyelids
  • Itchy throat
  • Swelling of the mouth/airways

If a child is experiencing wheezing and shortness of breath in addition to the symptoms above, allergies may be triggering asthma.

In addition, symptoms such as sleep disturbance and daily fatigue, along with inappropriate use of antihistamines, can result in impaired performance at school and work.¹

girl sneezing

Common food allergy symptoms include:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting)
  • Mild wheezing or coughing 
  • Itching or tingling mouth, lips, or throat 
  • Fatigue
  • Urticaria (rash/hives)
  • Failure to thrive 
  • Intense itching
  • Facial edema (swelling)
  • Feeling hot or cold
  • Rising anxiety
  • Pale or flushed appearance 
  • Dyspnea (i.e., difficult or labored breathing)
  • Hoarseness 
  • Croupy/choking cough 
  • Pale/cyanotic lips 

Adolescents allergic to certain foods can many times experience poorer overall health, more limitations in social activities, and less vitality than individuals from the general population.3

Common indoor (year-round) allergy symptoms include:

  • Itchy, stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery, swollen, bloodshot eyes
  • Scratchy, swollen throat
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest

More than 80% of children with asthma are sensitized to at least one indoor allergen.4

What are the most common allergies in children?

Not surprisingly, children and adults share many of the same common allergy triggers. For kids, be on the lookout for:5

You can take a deeper dive into these allergy types and many more by visiting our Allergen Fact Sheets, which provide answers to frequently asked questions about the most common allergy triggers.

How are allergies diagnosed in a child?

If you suspect your child is allergic, the first course of action is to get them tested. Depending on which type of allergy is at play, there are a few testing options available. For our purposes, we are going to focus on what’s known as allergy-related immune system reactions. Simply put, this happens when the immunoglobulin E (specific IgE) antibodies in your immune system recognize an otherwise harmless food, such as eggs, as a threat. 6

Since we mentioned eggs, let’s start with food allergies. 

Mom and son in dandelion field

How is a food allergy diagnosed?

Diagnosing food allergy starts with:7

  1. An appointment with your pediatrician 
  2. A physical examination 
  3. A food allergy-focused patient (medical) history

During the medical history, your healthcare provider will want to know things like the types of food you suspect may be triggering an allergic reaction, the kinds of symptoms you’re noticing, and even the times of day you see changes in your child’s behavior. The goal is to identify the foods that may be responsible for the allergy.7

The information gathered in this history can then be used to guide testing decisions and interpretation of results. From there, your healthcare provider will determine next steps, which could include an oral food challenge (OFC) or specific IgE test (there’s that science term again), which could be in the form of a skin-prick test or blood test. Read more about testing options to help diagnose food allergies here.

How are seasonal and indoor/year-round allergies diagnosed in a child?

Specific IgE tests, also known as an allergen sensitization test, is a powerful allergy diagnostic tool that measures the concentration of specific IgE antibodies in the blood. It can test for hundreds of allergic triggers, including the triggers children are most likely to be sensitized to.

At what age should a child be tested for allergies?

The simple answer here is as soon as you notice allergy symptoms. The sooner you can identify your child’s allergic triggers, the sooner you can work to reduce their exposure to them, develop a treatment plan, and improve their quality of life (and yours). We’ve outlined a lot that you need to know about your allergy testing options and how to get an allergen sensitization test.

How are allergies treated in a child?

Allergies can’t be cured, but symptoms can be reduced.  The best way to reduce symptoms is by adopting what’s called exposure reduction methods. Remember those Allergen Fact Sheets from before? Each fact sheet includes a section devoted to exposure reduction that covers specific guidelines on how to decrease triggers and thus reduce the likelihood of symptoms.

To round out our 101 approach, here’s an overview of exposure reduction tips for spring allergies, indoor/year-round allergies, and food allergies:


  • Check local pollen counts daily
  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioning instead
  • Wash your child’s clothes after outdoor activities
  • Wipe off any pets to remove pollen before letting them into your home
  • Use certified asthma and allergy air filters


  • Encase mattresses, box springs, and pillows in special allergen-proof fabric covers
  • Wash bedding weekly in temps of 54° C (roughly 130° F) or more and dry them in a hot dryer.
  • Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter bag.
  • Use damp mops and rags to remove dust


  • Read ingredient labels and "may contain" advisory panels on food and nonfood products carefully
  • Avoid cross-contamination when cooking by using two sets of cooking and eating utensils
  • Have your child wear a medical ID bracelet identifying their allergen(s)
  • Carry any recommended or emergency medication with you
  • Teach children which foods to avoid

Allergies in Children: A Team Effort

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. From parents and caregivers to schoolteachers and healthcare providers, managing allergies for children of any age requires awareness, information, and diligence. Every allergy journey should start with a conversation with your healthcare provider, especially when symptoms appear severe.

Equipped with the knowledge about your child’s allergic triggers and how to avoid them, you’ll be empowered to take on whatever adventure is right around the corner. 

  1. Wise SK, et. al. International consensus statement on allergy and rhinology: Allergic rhinitis - 2023. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2023 Apr;13(4):293-859. doi: 10.1002/alr.23090. Epub 2023 Mar 6. PMID: 36878860.
  2. Zablotsky B, Black LI, Akinbami LJ. Diagnosed allergic conditions in children aged 0–17 years: United States, 2021. NCHS Data Brief, no 459. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2023. DOI:
  3. Flokstra-de Blok BM, et al. Health-related quality of life of food allergic patients: comparison with the general population and other diseases. Allergy. 2010;65:238-24.4.
  4. Maciag MC, Phipatanakul W. Update on indoor allergens and their impact on pediatric asthma. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2022 Jun;128(6):652-658. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2022.02.009. Epub 2022 Feb 25. PMID: 35227902; PMCID: PMC9149060.
  5. Accessed December 2023
  6. Yu, Wong, et al. “Food Allergy: Immune Mechanisms, Diagnosis and Immunotherapy.” Nature Reviews Immunology, vol. 16, no. 12, 2016, p. 3,
  7. Kurowski K, Boxer RW. Food allergies: detection and management. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:1678-1688.

Tools for Understanding Allergies


Track allergy symptoms and prepare for a visit with a healthcare provider.

Learn about specific allergens, including common symptoms, management, and relief. 

Are you a healthcare provider? Get comprehensive information on hundreds of whole allergens and allergen components.